Judge reprimands Vasco, shutters youth lodging
Vasco da Gama has been ordered by a juvenile justice judge to
immediately suspend activities at its youth training facilities
because an investigation found teenage footballers were living in
Judge Ivone Ferreira Caetana issued the ruling on Wednesday in
response to charges by state prosecutors who have been looking into
conditions at the club’s main youth facilities in Sao Januario
It was only in February, after a 14-year-old boy died while
trying out in Itaguai, a more remote training center, that
investigators even learned of the existence of that facility, which
housed dozens of boys aged from 13 to 17.
Since then, they’ve learned there were no doctors available on
site when the boy, Wendel Venancio da Silva, died.
In an investigation since then, prosecutors found the boys were
lodged in deplorable conditions and not fed enough as they were
pushed through a grueling routine that left them with little time
for school, said main prosecutor Clisanger Ferreira Goncalves in a
In addition to denouncing the teenagers’ poor housing and
nutrition and their strenuous schedule, prosecutors also charged
the club with transporting the teenagers in an unsafe vehicle,
failing to provide them with medical care, and exposing them to
”The decision was made to safeguard the most fundamental rights
of dozens of the teenagers, aged 13 through 17, who are being
violently disrespected by the club,” the judge said. ”The
conditions these children are exposed to are slave-like.”
Calls and an email requesting comment from Vasco got no
As of Thursday, Vasco had five days to start improving the
situation. If the judge’s orders are not followed within 30 days,
the club faces a fine of $16,000 a day.
In the meantime, the club is prohibited from using the
facilities at Itaguai for training or housing young players.
The judge ruled that youths should eat with the professional
players, and be trained at Sao Januario, where the facilities were
better but needed to be fixed in five days. The problems at Sao
Januario include dorm rooms without ventilation, old and torn
mattresses, and water rationing.
About 20 teenagers are from other states and have difficulty
seeing their families because the club won’t pay for their
transportation. This also must be changed, the court said.
Prosecutor Goncalves has been involved with the investigation of
Sao Januario for three years. She spent the last year negotiating
terms of improvement with the club in meetings often attended by
the president, Roberto Dinamite.
She thought the club had agreed to improve conditions when
14-year-old Silva died at the Itaguai site, which had never been
disclosed to prosecutors.
”The conditions at the Sao Januario training center were not
ideal, but we made suggestions and thought they were being
followed,” she said in a statement. ”But they were lying, and
using the Itaguai site. What we found there is an affront to the
basic rights of children and teenagers.”
Exploitation of young players with dreams of making it big was a
common phenomenon in Brazil, but one that’s never been addressed by
FIFA or by the clubs that benefit from the sales of these young
players, said Christopher Gaffney, a Brazil-based academic who has
written about local football.
”The economy of football depends on unpaid adolescent labor,”
Gaffney said. ”This is a global phenomenon that the Brazilian
clubs exploit to their advantage.”
Other big clubs in Rio are also under scrutiny, prosecutors
Flamengo was facing an investigation after a 14-year-old hurt
himself within their facilities. Botafogo and Fluminense are faced
administrative inquiries into the conditions of their youth
In five days, a team of social workers, psychologists and law
enforcement officials will visit Vasco’s training grounds to check